The 2023 Rugby World Cup will be launched by a blockbuster clash between hosts France and three-time champions New Zealand but Australia still don’t know who they’ll be facing in their first match.
Organisers revealed on Friday that the opening game in the Stade de France in Paris on September 8, 2023, will bring together the storied rivals that played the first-ever final in 1987 and also the 2011 showdown – matches that the All Blacks won on both occasions.
The Wallabies, in contrast, should have a less fraught entry into the fray in the same stadium 24 hours later on Saturday, with their opener in pool C to be against the winner of the European championship qualifying event featuring the continent’s smaller teams.
The first big test for Dave Rennie’s men should come eight days later on September 17 when they face Fiji at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard in Saint-Etienne.
Next up on Sunday, September 24 will be the group’s marquee match in Lyon when the Wallabies take on Wales at a third successive World Cup, seeking to avenge their loss in Tokyo 2019.
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They will then round off their group campaign on Sunday, October 1 back in Saint-Etienne with a match against the lower-tier winners of the final qualification tournament. No kick-off times have yet been set for the games.
If they reach the quarter-finals as one of the two pool qualifiers, Australia would face a quarter-final match in Marseille.
There might even be a repeat of their Stade Velodrome match with England at the same stage of the 2007 tournament, which ended with them being knocked out by the boot of Jonny Wilkinson.
Should two-time winners Australia reach the semi-finals, it would be at the Stade de France on October 21 with the final being played there a week later.
Reigning champions South Africa will open their defence against Scotland in Marseille on September 10 while 2019 finalists England will launch their campaign with a tough one against Argentina on September 9 in Marseille.
“To be in the same pool as Ireland and Scotland will be a massive challenge, but to win the tournament, you have to be able to beat all the teams and we will be properly tested in the pool phases,” said Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber.
“Everyone who likes rugby dreams of seeing this game,” France captain Charles Ollivon said of the clash with the All Blacks which will mean so much to the home nation.
“Kicking off our World Cup against the All Blacks, there’s no equivalent.”
The two sides have met seven times at the World Cup, with New Zealand winning two finals but Les Bleus having sensationally upset the favourites in the 1999 and 2007 editions.
“It’s going to be a massive occasion playing France in the opening match of the tournament,” said New Zealand captain Sam Cane.
“Matches between our two sides have been some of the most celebrated games in our history, so it’ll be fantastic to meet them once again.”
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